CLEMSON -- Eventually, the ball was going to go in.
The Tigers never ran out of chances.
Playing without their point guard and two other starters nursing injuries, Clemson broke out the vacuums on the offensive glass Saturday and wiped away Boston College, 78-56. The Tigers' offense didn't click particularly well, but their defense was in control, and nobody ever said a win had to be dominant.
The fact is, with six of their next eight games on the road and James Mays, Trevor Booker and Demontez Stitt on the mend, anything on the positive side of the ledger is fine, whether by five or 50 points.
Step one's out of the way.
"I thought we played well in spurts," said Cliff Hammonds, who took over the point in Stitt's absence and scored a team-high 14 points with two assists. "We could do a little bit better job ... I didn't close a couple of times.
"But we played well enough when we had to."
The Tigers (16-5, 4-3 ACC) yanked 21 offensive rebounds for second chance after second chance, someone in a white jersey there to clean up every missed bucket. The defense held Eagles star scorer Tyrese Rice without a point for the first 13 minutes of the game and jumped to a quick lead, keeping a six- to eight-point advantage for the majority.
Then, one stretch of flawless basketball widened the lead to 17, midway through the second half. Mays was fouled and made both of his free throws -- no, that's not a misprint -- and Clemson led 48-40 with just under 14 minutes to play.
Again pressing the inbounds pass, Clemson forced John Oates to throw a lazy arc that was picked off by Sam Perry. Perry threw to Terrence Oglesby, who air-balled an open 3-pointer, but the rebound was kicked out to Hammonds, who buried his 3-pointer.
The Clemson student section again showing some life, a desperate Eagles pass the length of the court was chased down by Oglesby, who corralled it and reversed. He got it inside to Booker, who missed a bunny, but Mays came flying in with a thunderous one-handed putback jam.
Mays screaming and pumping his left paw, still wrapped in a cast, the Tigers led 53-40 with less than 50 seconds off the clock. The lead quickly escalated when Clemson stole yet another ball and got Booker to the free throw line, where he made one shot.
The Eagles finally got to their end of the court, but Corey Raji's shot was smacked away by David Potter. The last man down the court after the defensive play, Potter got the ball in his hands in the corner, jumped and released.
"The last couple of games, we didn't come out with a sticky defense," coach Oliver Purnell said. "I thought we grabbed the game by the throat with our defense (tonight)."
Hammonds handled the point in Stitt's absence and performed well, a good sign since he'll be at the spot for at least two weeks. Although Mays beat him in assists (5-2), Hammonds at least didn't sacrifice his scoring trying to force passes when there weren't lanes.
"Even when (Stitt) was here, I was playing 15 minutes of point a game," Hammonds said. "It's not that new to me. I thought I did OK."
"He's solid," Perry said, grading Hammonds. "That's just him. He plays 40 minutes, he can do everything."
Taking advantage of his bench, Purnell continuously cycled in fresh legs, which got nine Tigers in the scoring column, led by Hammonds, Mays, Booker, Rivers and Potter in double figures.
Most importantly, Clemson never let up on Rice, who came in averaging an ACC-best (in conference games) 22.0 points. Rice only scored 17, nine from the free throw line, and with their best weapon out of ammo, the Eagles (12-8, 3-4) slunk home with their fourth straight loss, three by heavy margins.
"We did what we do," Perry summed up. "We wore them down with our defense and everybody scored."